According to a new report released by the Pentagon’s inspector general, ISIS has devised a three-part “overarching strategy” for its “desert-based insurgency” in Iraq and Syria. The three parts are: “sahara” (desert), “sahwat” (meaning awakenings — a derogatory reference to any Sunni Muslims who oppose the group), and “sawlat” (“hit-and-run operations”).
The Islamic State claimed a suicide bombing that targeted the Assad regime and Russian forces in southern Syria yesterday. The group claims that 50 people were killed or wounded, while a pro-regime source reported “scores” of casualties. The operation was conducted by a jihadist dispatched by a new Islamic State “province,” but the group has operated in the area for years under another brand.
The Islamic State announced today that Hudhayfah al-Badri, the son of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has been killed during a raid on Syrian and Russian forces in Homs province. Al-Badri’s death was announced via a graphic that is part of the Islamic State’s “Caravan of the Martyrs” series, which has featured deceased jihadists from around the globe. The so-called caliphate has offered few details concerning al-Badri’s purported death.
Combined Joint Force Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) announced today that four members of the Islamic State’s illicit gas and oil network were killed during “operations” on May 26. They were targeted in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. Separately, CJTF-OIR’s local partners seized and destroyed $1.4 million dollars worth of drugs from the so-called caliphate in southern Syria.
Since mid-April, the Islamic State and the Assad regime have been engaged in an intense battle in the southern neighborhoods of Damascus. ISIS claims to have killed or wounded hundreds of Assad’s soldiers, but its figures cannot be independently verified. Meanwhile, the so-called caliphate continues to fight the Syrian government and its allies in other areas as well, including in eastern Syria.
The Islamic State’s propagandists continue to take aim at rival jihadists, including al Qaeda and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). A recent Islamic State video calls upon HTS fighters to defect to the so-called caliphate’s cause.
The White House declared on Apr. 4 that the “military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed.” But ISIS continues to operate in several areas of Syria, as well as in Iraq, which wasn’t even mentioned in the White House’s statement.
As US-backed forces seize the city of Raqqa, the Syrian regime moves to retake ground in Deir Ezzor, where the Islamic State has laid siege to Bashar al Assad’s forces since 2014. Assad’s regime has received a boost from Iranian-sponsored militias, as well as the Russians, during its recent offensive in eastern Syria.
Bashar al Assad’s forces and allies are advancing on the Islamic State’s stronghold in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. The two sides have fought in Deir Ezzor for years and the Assad regime is hoping to turn the tide of battle with the help of Russian airpower.
The US Treasury Department and United Nations designated Islamic State operative Fared Saal as a terrorist yesterday. Saal, a German-Algerian, first joined the jihad in Syria several years ago. Along with his comrade Denis Cuspert, he appeared in a July 2014 video showing dozens of corpses at the Shaer Gas field in Homs, Syria.
Hezbollah has repositioned its men for the ongoing battles in Syria.
On Mar. 30, the US Treasury Department designated Bahrun Naim as a terrorist. Naim is one of the most prolific planners of the Islamic State’s so-called “remote-controlled” attacks. Most of his plots have been thwarted by counterterrorism officials, but he has a broad network of supporters in Indonesia.
The policy debate concerning Syria must reflect on-the-ground realities. The war is a complex, multi-sided affair with no easy solutions.
The eighth edition of the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine features a cover story on Ahmad Abousamra, who was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List in 2013. Abousamra was the “chief editor” of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s English-language magazine, and also one of al Qaeda’s fiercest rhetorical opponents. He described al Qaeda’s leaders and pro-al Qaeda ideologues as the “Jews of Jihad.”
The Islamic State and Bashar al Assad’s forces are once again battling for control of the Shaer gas field in Syria’s Homs province. The gas facilities have changed hands multiple times since July 2014, when the jihadists first launched an offensive in the area.